Although an increasing number of companies are embracing flexible work environments, most have no clue if it's actually paying off, new research finds.
Overall, 80 percent of employers now offer some type of flexible work arrangement, according to a study from WorldatWork and FlexJobs. However, only a tiny fraction of those employers (3 percent) attempt to quantify the return on their investment in flexibility programs by measuring productivity, employee engagement or performance ratings.
Despite lacking any actual metrics to support the statement, most employers say their employees think flexible work arrangements are valuable. More than half of those surveyed expected that their workers would say that the flexible work options have a positive effect on employee engagement, motivation and satisfaction.
The research shows that more than 60 percent of employers lack a formal, written philosophy or policy to support employee flexibility options.
"Without a formal program in place, it's difficult to measure flexibility's effectiveness," Anne Ruddy, president and CEO of WorldatWork, said in a statement. "Until that happens, companies will not see cost-saving benefits, productivity gains and increased employee retention, which all come from workplace flexibility."
One possible reason for the lack of effort in determining the success of flexible programs is that many company leaders have yet to buy into the practice. Only 42 percent of the companies surveyed said their managers believe flexibility is an essential element to organizational success. [Employees Would Trade Pay for Flexible Workplace ]
"Top employers today understand the valid reasons for creating new ways of working. However, we're still witnessing a lack of training, and resistance from management," Ruddy said.
The study revealed that more than 40 percent of employers don't allow all employees to take advantage of flexible work arrangements, with more than two-thirds of managers offering flexibility to their employees at the managers' discretion. Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, said allowing "ad hoc" flexible-work options without oversight or intention isn't a smart, long-term strategy for companies.
"The 80 percent of companies that offer flexible work casually are missing some key strategic possibilities," Sutton Fell said. "By formalizing flex-work programs and putting structure around them, they can track metrics, measure progress, and quantify goals and outcomes."
The research discovered that the most prevalent flexibility programs being offered today are telework days provided on an ad-hoc basis, flex time and compressed workweeks.
"The most important part is to realize that work flexibility shouldn't compete or erode business goals, but should support a healthier, more productive and stronger bottom line when implemented proactively and strategically," Sutton Fell said.
The study was based on surveys of 375 businesses that varied by size and industry.